Projects  >   LOC
Consumer electronics companies are some of the most popular and profitable brands on the planet. Yet they also face a market that is not just changing - it is being completely redefined every few years. Instead of making a better product, or even offering brand new features, to stay ahead they must create entirely new product categories.

One area ripe for innovation is retail spaces. Initially a fast, efficient way to move goods, during the last half of the 20th century department stores evolved to deliver unique, high-quality items. To compete against Amazon and the rest of the internet, retailers have more recently begun to focus on creating a personable, engaging atmosphere for their customers. How can online social networking combine with the high-touch model developed by retailers to create new value in retail spaces?

An international consumer electronics company approached us with a simple theme: new technologies in retail spaces. We quickly reframed the problem to focus on bringing a sense of community to the retail environment.
By talking to shoppers, conducting a survey, and following avid shoppers on a weekend excusrion, we discovered that - despite the eternal onslaught of advertisements - shoppers struggle to find what they need.
More importantly, people who go out shopping are not always looking to buy something.
Personas & Scenarios
We the research down into four typologies, and decided to focus on two of them.

The first one demonstrates the basic functions of the system like supporting purchase decisions and detailed user control of sharing permissions.

Meet Brad. He's a gamer, and a tech enthusiast. He's an early adopter for tech products, but really hates shopping for anything else.

The second demonstrates advanced functions that can help shoppers develop their personal tastes and grow their connections with their community.

Meet Katie, Michelle, and Mike. They are hip urban professionals; shopping is their pastime.

The usage scenario first demonstrates how the system is going to help get the user comfortable with shopping and help him get more out of his buying decisions. It goes on to show how - for our power users - the system is less about encouraging shopping, and more about enhancing the experience of shopping. The system helps these friends evolve their personal styles and extend their personal networks. Read the full scenario.
With the basic story in place, we could finally choose which design elements support it. We went through group brainstorming sessions and several rounds of paper prototyping to get feedback from potential users.

More Testing & Prototypes

Download more early sketches and prototypes (zip file with JPGs).
The system uses three media - mobile, web, and public displays - to reach shoppers when they want to connect with products or their friends.
After initial user testing confirmed the basic page elements and layout, this was the first draft in Illustrator.
The next iteration.

An evaluation and social support tool - Great or Hate - lets users ask about or recommend particular items to their friends, communities of style, or the public.

Here, Brad has posted a photo of himself to a public display to ask which of the shirts look best. A passing group of girls stops to help him out by voting.

View this short video to see more of LOC's functions. (6 minutes, 30 MB)
Our thinking was guided by BJ Fogg's behavior model - shown here - which asserts that technologies can do more than enable people to take action (i.e. with information, strength, etc.)

They can also provide motivation by acting as a channel for social pressure, and they can act as a trigger by helping users remember to act.